Experts from 17 countries visit the Lugar centre in Tbilisi
Twenty-three delegates from Europe, South America, Central Asia and the Middle East recently visited the Richard Lugar Public Health Research Centre in Tbilisi. The purpose of the visit was to investigate allegations made by Russia on the production of biological weapons.
The delegates stated that they had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the activities of the entire institution. They further said that the centre ensured the transparency of its work and that all its activities were associated only with the prevention of various diseases.
Former Minister of State Security Igor Giorgadze voiced numerous concerns regarding the Lugar centre in September, claiming that it was a secret laboratory used for producing biological weapons.
Giorgadze was not the first to make such claims. The Lugar centre has for several years been presented in the Russian media as a threat to the Russian Federation, alleging that the US military was directly involved in developing biological weapons which they intend to use against Russia.
Authorities of the United States and Georgia have repeatedly made statements emphasizing that the Lugar centre’s main goal was the timely detection and handling of epidemics.
The research centre was opened in 2011 near Tbilisi international airport in Alekseyevka village. It is equipped with the latest technology available, adheres to the highest standards and has a level three biosafety rating. This means that the centre can work with microbes of almost any type, except for a few extremely dangerous pathogens such as anthrax or the plague.
The Public Health Research Centre, named after Senator Richard Lugar, was built with the financial assistance of the United States and has been working at full capacity since 2013. It was initially under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence, then the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and today – the Ministry of Health.
The BBC investigation
The BBC conducted a scrupulous journalistic investigation of the Lugar centre and produced an 11-minute documentary which says that the Russian authorities and the Russian media are spreading disinformation about the laboratory, and that the allegations made against the laboratory were unfounded.
Journalist Steve Rosenberg visited the Lugar centre, conducted several interviews with respondents both in Tbilisi and in Moscow, including with Igor Giorgadze. Giorgadze was unable to provide the BBC with evidence against the centre itself.
When asked if his statements were simply disinformation, Giorgadze answered: “I don’t know.”